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Enter the ‘Age of Unthinking’ in SA


Busani Ngcaweni is Director-General of the National School of Government, South Africa.

The problem in SA today is that we have collectively stopped thinking. In fact, thinking is now almost blasphemous.

Look at Eskom: one solution of reducing its debt is by converting loans into equity. The Public Investment Corporation or any other chosen (and willing creditor) can be approached and persuaded to do that. It could immediately cut up to R100-billion off its debt (more or less depending on what the shareholder/turn around strategy determines).

But who dares to say/do that.

She/he will be accused of privatising Eskom – the benefits of cutting debt notwithstanding.

Imagine what minus R100-billion in debt could do for the utility – ability to pay for urgent maintenance, getting it ready to play in the renewable energy space, et cetera.

But we are in this era of anti-thinking. So it’s a stalemate. For anything you do involving private equity is called privatisation.

Just look at Gauteng Premier David Makhura’s Okae Molao crime-fighting campaign – sending thousands of criminals into prison every hour. The overcrowding in prisons is now reaching unconstitutional proportions.

The fiscus can’t afford to build new prisons immediately. So the private sector can, quickly. And these can later be transferred to the state.

What do you know, after the Bosasa private prisons scandal, no one will dare propose that in public. You will be accused of advancing state capture 2.0.

Yet the public wants to see all criminals in prison, serving long terms. It’s a zero-sum game.

Perhaps we must pray for thunderstorms which produce mushroom-like prisons overnight … as deadly as those wild mushrooms have previously been proven to be.

This is after all the age of unthinking. The era where corruption is like a silent fart in an elevator. No one claims it. Everyone suspects everyone to be responsible, thus stifling innovation.

It’s a stalemate. A Trumpian approach to public policy making.

Many miss the fact that in commercial law and the law of contracts, Eskom is already owned by those it owes. DM


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